The following comes from an Oct. 24 story on he website of the Alliance Defense Fund.
Alliance Defending Freedom sent a California school district a letter Tuesday after its superintendent barred school choirs from performing at venues with superior acoustics merely because they are churches.
October 22, 2013
Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education
Gilroy, CA 95020
Dear Members of the Board,
It has come to our attention that Gilroy Unified School District’s (“GUSD” or “the District”) Superintendent of Schools recently decided, after receiving a few complaints, to end GUSD’s long-standing tradition of permitting its many exceptional choir groups to perform in accoustically-superior churches in the local community. The relevant facts as we understand them, based on recent media reports, are as follows. GUSD has a state-acclaimed choir program. The program began to receive recognition at the state level in the 1990s and, under the direction of Phil Robb (who recently retired), developed a “stellar reputation as a top high school choral program° in the state.’ Video clips of a recent GUSD choir performance confirm that the program deserves all the credit and accolades it received.
GUSD has long held some of its performances at local churches and similar religious venues. Critically, the directors of the GUSD choral program have held performances at these venues because of their excellent acoustics, not to promote any religious message or belief. As the current director of the Christopher High School choir said, “I don’t care whether or not it is in a church. I care about the acoustics.” Thus, if a nonreligious building had superior acoustics to a church, the choir would perform there. In fact, it appears that GUSD choirs have performed at many nonreligious, nonschool venues, including, among others, the South Valley National Bank, the Gilroy Elks Lodge, the Portuguese Hall in Gilroy, and the Eagle Ridge Clubhouse….
Despite the choir directors’ neutral process for selecting performance venues, GUSD’s superintendent recently barred school choirs from performing at religious sites after receiving a few complaints. In so doing, the superintendent deprived the members of GUSD’s choral program the best acoustical venues for their performances. This is very unfortunate. Exceptional musicians in a state-acclaimed music program deserve to perform at facilities with superior acoustics. Her decision also was completely unnecessary from a legal standpoint. We understand that she based her decision on the concern that holding choir performances in a church would violate the “separation of church and state.”
….Because of a handful of misguided complaints, and one official’s misunderstanding of First Amendment law, two hundred members of GUSD’s acclaimed choral program are now deprived of the beet possible acoustical venues For their performances. We write to ask that you, the members the GUSD Board of Education, right this wrong by immediately reinstating the policy allowing GUSD’s choral program directors to select the beat performance venues pursuant to the acoustic- excellence criterion they employed for years.
Please respond to this letter by October 26, 2013, confirming that the board has reinstated the policy. And please know that, should one or more of the complainants pursue legal action against the district’s decision to reinstate the policy, Alliance Defending Freedom would be happy to defend the district free of charge. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this important matter.
D. Tedesco Senior Legal Counsel
To see the original posting, click here.